Review: The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton


The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton

The Rehearsal

Title: The Rehearsal

Author: Eleanor Catton

Release Date: May 17, 2008

Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books

Format: Hardcover

Page Number: 320

Source: City of Literature Class

All the world’s a stage – and nowhere is it that more true than at an all-girls high school, particularly one where a scandal has just erupted. When news spreads of a high school teacher’s relationship with his underage student, participants and observers alike soon take part in an elaborate show of concern and dismay. But beneath the surface of the teenage girls’ display, there simmers a new awareness of their own power. They obsessively examine the details of the affair with the curiosity, jealousy, and approbation native to any adolescent girl, under the watchful eye of their stern and enigmatic saxophone teacher, whose focus may not be as strictly on their upcoming recital as she implies.

5 out of 5 stars


I loved this book. I was so pleasantly surprised about this and I REALLY want to read more from this author. For my class I had to write a book review about the book, so I’m just going to copy and paste that here…. :)

In Eleanor Catton’s debut novel, The Rehearsal, two storylines are followed that eloquently and seamlessly blend together throughout the novel. Catton, an author from Canada, studied English at the University of Canterbury and completed her Master’s degree in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. The Rehearsal is Catton’s master’s thesis for her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

The Rehearsal opens with a saxophone teacher talking with a parent about her daughter during music lessons. This conversation quickly unfolds and becomes the basis of the first storyline. During a music lesson with the saxophone teacher the main character, Isolde, is introduced. Isolde makes an excuse about not practicing for her lesson by confiding in her teacher that her older sister, Victoria, was raped by the instrumental music teacher at their high school, Mr. Saladin.

Many of the students that went to school with Victoria and Isolde made it apparent that the relationship between Victoria and Mr. Saladin was consensual. The students claimed to have seen the couple together on multiple occasions, and it is later found out that the two are still seeing each other. Because there was a news story leaked about the inappropriate relations between teacher and student, Isolde and some of Victoria’s friends are required to go to counselling sessions with the school’s guidance counselor to talk about what happened. Isolde meets a girl named Julia at the counselling sessions and they form a friendship.

The second storyline opens with a first-year college student named Stanley auditioning for the Institute for drama. He wants to become an actor, and going to this Institute is his dream. He goes through the audition process and learns that he gets into the school. The first-year drama students have to put on a show with no help from professors, and decide to take the local news story about the relationship between Victoria and Mr. Saladin and turn it into a play.

Isolde and Stanley meet and start dating; Isolde is fifteen and Stanley is eighteen. A few short weeks later Stanley gets called into one of his instructor’s offices and is questioned about his relationship with Isolde. The saxophone teacher saw that the two were forming a relationship and was concerned about Isolde’s safety. Stanley brings it up to Isolde and the two have a fight about it. To try and not make Stanley angrier, she invites her parents to go to the first-year student play with her. Neither she nor her parents know that the play is based off the affair with Victoria and Mr. Saladin. After watching the play, Isolde and Stanley’s families get together to talk about it and its content…

I was pleasantly surprised by this book because the first few chapters were quite slow and confusing with the different stories. While reading the beginning I was distracted by the fact that the language used in conversations was unrealistic. There were too many metaphors and large words to be a real conversation between high schoolers, but as the story progressed, so did the writing style. The Rehearsal has strong themes of sexuality, and there are many references to being lesbian or gay.

The main character Isolde is uncertain about her sexuality and uses Stanley and Julia to experiment to see if she likes men, women, or both genders. The saxophone teacher, who never gets a name throughout the novel, is also represented as lesbian, which put a unique twist on the story which I was not expecting.

The saxophone teacher had fantasies about one of her friends who she has been in love with, and places herself and her female students in her fantasies as well. This reminded me of the relationship between Victoria and Mr. Saladin. I thought it was interesting with different ways Catton used sexuality and intimacy throughout the novel.

Stanley and his fellow first-year students also dealt with sexuality and gender roles during the play they wrote and performed. One of the objectives with the play was to use a prop chosen by last year’s students to use as a main theme or motif to guide the play. The object was a deck of cards, so they spun that into drawing cards at certain points of your life in order to determine sexuality and gender. This was beautifully explained during the brainstorming process of figuring out what to make their play about.

One of my favorite things about this book was the fluidity of time. During the first storyline, the sections were broken up by days of the week, where in the second storyline they were broken up by months. My interpretation of this was that time passes differently at different ages. Because you haven’t experienced much life when you’re young, every single day seems long and monotonous, but as you get older time seems to go faster. It doesn’t seem like you break it up into days or weeks even, but months or periods of your life.

There was also fluidity with time in the sense that some scenes were repeated but from another perspective. Because time was represented differently in both the storylines, there were some discrepancies between when events actually occurred. It gave the reader a sense of knowing more than the characters, and that made the reader want to continue reading to find out when every person would find out information.

The characters in this novel were beautifully broken, and made you want to know everything about them. All the characters were struggling with something different, but didn’t know the best way to deal with their problems. Some of the opinions they brought to the foreground of the story made me really have to think about what I was reading, and how I felt about the issues they were bringing up.

I am extremely impressed with Eleanor Catton as this is her debut novel. The themes that were discussed were talked about eloquently and fit together with the whole story wonderfully. As I read I try and make predictions about the way a story is going to go, and I couldn’t seem do that with this. Every page contained something new and interesting that added to the story. Overall I enjoyed this book immensely, and I look forward to reading more works from Catton in the future.

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Review: Gilead (Gilead #1) – Marilynne Robinson


Gilead (Gilead #1) – Marilynne Robinson

Gilead (Gilead, #1)

Title: Gilead (Gilead #1)

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Release Date: October 28, 2004

Publisher: Picador

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 247

Source: City of Literature Class

Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows “even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order” (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

3 out of 5 stars


I read this book for my City of Literature class, and this has been the least awful one we’ve read so far. I didn’t hate this book, but I did find it very boring. Less horribly boring than the others, but still difficult to get through.

Gilead is told from the perspective of a dead man who is writing letters to his seven year old son for him to read when he becomes an adult. The whole plot is based around his findings about life through being a pastor and a follower of God.

My professor described this as more of a history of Iowa than anything, and I do not understand that at all. There wasn’t much history at all, and it mostly just told random stories from John Ames’ perspective. I found him to be quite an unreliable narrator throughout the whole book, and found it hard to trust what he was saying. This book was very religious and I wonder how the people who aren’t Christian felt about it. I bet it would be confusing if you knew nothing about the different denominations of Christianity.

I’m very impressed with how masculine the narrator sounds as the author is female. I think that it was an extremely strong perspective to take and write about, but it was done very well. I wish there would have been more information about Ames’ wife. The third book in this series follows his wife, Lila, but I have no intention of reading it. I get that if I really wanted to know more I could just read the rest of the series, but I just wish there was more in this book.

I never realized how heavily I relied on chapter breaks before there are none. NO CHAPTERS. Just random letters to his kid. Which makes sense with the idea, but the formatting was very bothersome to me. I think it just made it harder for me to get through. I’m extremely grateful to my library for having the audiobook to this, because it was nice to hear it read in a man’s voice. The narrator sounded VERY familiar to me, so I looked him up and found out that the only thing he’s been in that I’ve seen was Spiderman 2. So I don’t know if he just has a normal voice or if I’ve seen that movie more than I thought I had…

Overall I think this was a decent book. I don’t get the point of reading it for my class, but I’m sure I’ll find out when we discuss it tomorrow.

Review: Jesus’ Son: Stories – Denis Johnson


Jesus’ Son: Stories – Denis Johnson

Jesus' Son: Stories

Title: Jesus’ Son: Stories

Author: Denis Johnson

Release Date: February 17, 1992

Publisher: Picador

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 133

Source: City of Literature Class

Jesus’ Son is a visionary chronicle of dreamers, addicts, and lost souls. These stories tell of spiraling grief and transcendence, of rock bottom and redemption, of getting lost and found and lost again. The raw beauty and careening energy of Denis Johnson’s prose has earned this book a place among the classics of twentieth-century American literature.

1 out of 5 stars


I have the theory that reading for class makes literally everything worse. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I found this book very lackluster.

After finding out I had to read this book for class by Monday, I just decided to read it all in one day because it’s extremely short, but I was very confused the whole time. Honestly, it felt like everyone knew something that I didn’t, but not in a charming and fun try-to-find-it-out sort of way.

This was a series of short stories, some of which were slightly correlated, that were about addicts. I have no idea why I had to read this for my class other than the fact that the author went to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, but I did it anyway. I didn’t relate to any of the stories at all and that’s because I’ve never had to deal with addiction or anything remotely similar. I found that the stories didn’t make sense because they were so short. Some were less than 5 pages, but were just chilling and being part of this book.

I don’t have too many thoughts because I was mostly confused. I might add to this post after we discuss this, but probably not. There was NO correlation with this book being called “Jesus’ Son.” There was nothing about it at all, so I’m also confused by the title. The last story was creepy because it was about this guy that just creeped on this couple in the hopes of catching them having sex. Hmm. There’s something off about that. He was also obsessed with watching the woman get out of the shower and dry herself off and put her clothes on. I don’t understand.

A lot of people were gushing about how the writing was so poetic and beautiful, but I disagree wholeheartedly. I thought it felt choppy and I got annoyed while reading it because there was no cohesion with anything. I’m not saying to not read this book, but please don’t waste your time reading it.

Review: When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine – Jhumpa Lahiri


When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine – Jhumpa Lahiri

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Title: When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Release Date: 1999

Publisher: Mariner

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 19

Source: Anthology

A young Pakistani girl named Lilia is living in New England. It is 1971 when her and her parents meet their new neighbor Mr. Pirzada. He frequently visits their home for dinner, and becomes an integral part of their family. Even though the neighbors share a cultural connection, the war in Pakistan creates tension between them. Lilia learns how war can create fear and uncertainty, even when you live far away from the conflict.

3 out of 5 stars


I liked the first story of the anthology better than this one, but I still enjoyed reading this. I feel like this book is making my reading branch out more, and I feel like I’m reading more diversely. I’m here for it.

This story is about a young girl, Lilia, who lives with her parents. A man named Mr. Pirzada always comes to their house for dinner, and she doesn’t seem to question it. After getting to know him a little bit more she understands that his family is living in war in India or Pakistan. He hasn’t heard from them in a long while, and he’s worried about them, but he still treats her like his own daughter. He brings her candy, and she cherishes everything from him.

There wasn’t a lot to this story, but I do think that it was beautifully written. I really enjoy Lahiri’s writing style; it’s eloquent and easy to read. I think the theme of loss and longing is prevalent, and it seemed more real because it was coming from a young girl. Her friend moves away, and she doesn’t know how to cope with that.

I really felt empathy for Mr. Pirzada. He wanted his family to be with him so badly, so he ends up finding a “host” family with Lilia and her parents. I think that if it weren’t for him joining them for meals he would have been much worse off. I don’t know how hard it would be to be separated from your family without knowing how they are or even if they’re alive, but I’m assuming it would be so hard. I wanted him to feel better and be happy!

I really enjoyed Lilia as a character because she was vulnerable in just the right ways. She’s a kid, so her shyness was portrayed perfectly. She also valued everything that she had in her possession, but was never greedy. I think that was an interesting trait to give her, but it worked well with the story. I look forward to reading more by Jhumpa Lahiri!

Review: A Temporary Matter – Jhumpa Lahiri


A Temporary Matter – Jhumpa Lahiri

A Temporary Matter

Title: A Temporary Matter

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Release Date: April 20, 1998

Publisher: Mariner

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 22

Source: Anthology

4 out of 5 stars


This is a short story in the anthology called Interpreter of Maladies. My boyfriend read this book for one of his classes, and said that I would enjoy the stories, so here I am.

This story follows a couple who suffer from communication issues because of their grief over their miscarriage. The two were in love at one point, but have fallen out of love and find themselves ignoring each other, and seeking out solitude. They get a message saying that in order to fix some power lines, everyone in the neighborhood will have to turn off their lights from 8 pm until 9 pm for a week. At first they dread the conversations they’ll have to have without electricity, but start having meals by candlelight. They play a “game” where they each tell one thing that they’ve never told the other while sitting in the dark. They listen and don’t judge one another. The man thinks that it might be possible to rekindle the love they once had, but it might not be able to happen under certain circumstances.

This was such an amazingly written story and I would recommend it! It took me by surprise, because with three pages left of the story, EVERYTHING was going so well, then the ending was just so sad. Reading this short story made me question why I don’t read short stories more often. I honestly think the reason is because I only ever read them for class, so when I do outside of class they feel a little forced, but I’m giving these a chance :)

I thought that because the couple in the story had gone through something hard they would get back together and make up. I am kind of clueless in the whole “falling out of love” thing, but I wish they could have worked things out. Even though the ending was sad, I thought it was a perfect way to conclude the story as a whole. I think it would have been forced and unrealistic for them to get back together and work everything out for themselves. I believe this is a testament to how some relationships end up, which is sad, but it’s true.

I thought it was a beautiful story, and can’t wait to continue on with the rest in this anthology!

Review: The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) – Samantha Shannon


The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) – Samantha Shannon

The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2)

Title: The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2)

Author: Samantha Shannon

Release Date: February 1, 2015

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 501

Source: TBR Pile

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London…

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

5 out of 5 stars


This book was just as amazing as the first one. Wow wow wow.

The Mime Order follows Paige and her little entourage in the hopes of solving all the issues with the Rephiam and the Syndicate and SciLondon. She decides to enroll into the battle to become Mime-lord with Jaxon. The two are the dream team. Mime-lord and mollisher of I-4.

Paige is the most wanted criminal in all of London, and she has to escape people that want to kill her, while also trying to be helpful to everyone. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, here…

Oh my gosh. So no spoilers, but the ending was everything I wanted in life it was so fricking good. If you want an epic fantasy/sci-fi series, read The Bone Season, then read this because it’s amazing.

Samantha Shannon has a way of writing that just draws you in so much, and keeps you hooked until the last sentence. Literally the last sentence of this book omg. So much happened in this book, and the only reason it took me so long to read was because I was buddy-reading this and my buddy didn’t read as fast as me. So I’ve had to take breaks while reading, but it was still so good. If this wasn’t part of a buddy-read I would have easily finished it in a couple of days because I was hooked.

WARDEN IS BACK. Yay!! He’s my favorite character, I think, because he’s so mysterious. He’s just trying to do the best for everyone around him, and his feelings for Paige… I don’t know exactly how he feels yet, but I have a feeling the next book will let me know. I’m so excited to read the next book because I know it will answer so many questions!

I cannot wait to see what happens with the rest of the series. I have no idea at all where it’s going to go because I don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next book! I know Samantha Shannon will take it great places because her writing style is gorgeous.

I actually gasped at the end. The last page gets ya, but don’t spoil yourself and go read it *I see you guilty last-page-before-the-book-starts-readers…*

Please read this series. It’s so well written, and there’s so much action. Seriously so much action the whole entire time. Paige is always getting into something, and she somehow always figures out how to get out of it.

I can’t wait for the rest of this series!!

Series:

The Pale Dreamer (The Bone Season #0.5)

The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1)

The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3)

On the Merits of Unnaturalness (The Bone Season)

 

Review: The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) – Samantha Shannon


The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1) – Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)

Title: The Bone Season (The Bone Season #1)

Author: Samantha Shannon

Release Date: August 20, 2013

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Format: Hardcover

Page Number: 466

Source: TBR Pile

The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

5 out of 5 stars


Why did it take me so long to pick this book up?! I knew that it was going to be amazing, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I did a buddy-read with Kenedie from afangirlsbookshelf on Youtube and we both really loved it. We emailed our thoughts after every chapter and there was so much to talk about with this book! I loved so much about this book I don’t even know where to start…

This story follows Paige who is working with a group of clairvoyants in Scion London in 2059. The voyants are in danger because no one wants them to be living in London, so they have to hide their gifts in order to survive. Paige and her crew are all rare voyants, and Paige is a dream walker. She can connect with the aether and see inside people’s dreamscapes. All is well until she gets captured by the Rephaim and taken to Oxford. She has to learn to live with the Rephs and find out how to leave safely. She learns to trust those around her in order to survive…

Again, this book was AMAZING. I just want to read the whole entire series, and plan on reading the books that are out as soon as possible. It’s been awhile since I’ve wanted to read a whole series back to back, but I just need to know what happens next!

The characters in this story were so interesting and so unique. Every person in this book had their own voice and their own personality, and I feel as though that’s hard to come by sometimes. I loved Paige as a character. It’s crazy to think she’s only 19… Umm that’s only a year older than me… I’m impressed with her.

The plot was so intricately written, and there are plenty of opportunities for old scenes to be explained in the future novels. The writing style kind of reminded me of Cassandra Clare. I was hooked the second I started reading this book, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the books!

Series:

The Pale Dreamer (The Bone Season #0.5)

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2)

The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3)

On the Merits of Unnaturalness (The Bone Season)